(Editor's note: This story comes from John Simpson, a longtime journalist who has spent years covering everything Joint Base Lewis-McChord. His work is also available at northwest.military.com)
Private 1st Class Steven Sherry excitedly stepped through the doors of the Army's biggest and most technological recreation center Friday afternoon at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
“My friends and I used to come over here and peek in the windows as this place was being built,” he said, eyes jumping from every pixelized big screen to the next.
“Now we’re finally inside, and it is very, very cool.”
The “place” is the Warrior Zone, a 29,000-square-foot, postmodern technological marvel, conceptualized and built to give soldiers, airmen and their dependents a place to unwind.
The base’s Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation agency hosted the Warrior Zone’s grand opening on Friday afternoon, which drew hundreds of people interested in military's newest fun zone.
Check this out and unwind vicariously.
Featuring $1 million worth of high-tech equipment, service members can utilize 16 game stations with 55-inch definition monitors for X-Box and PS3 video games.
What’s more, there are fifty-three, 52-inch, high-definition televisions equipped with DirecTV.
“You starting to get the idea as to what soldiers and airmen now have to relax with?” Bill Strock, the Warrior Zone’s manager, asked as we watched a number of soldiers start a game of pool.
But that was just the first few drops of the center's technological tsunami.
Near the back of the structure are 32 Alien Ware Gaming computers and 40 Internet computers.
“There are over 500 games programmed into the Alien Ware computers,” Strock continued.
He said that soldiers at Joint Base Lewis-McChord could not only play each other but also against soldiers stationed at other bases.
“The world has just gotten a little smaller; they can connect anywhere in the world,” Strock added.
Free WiFi, a 15-foot high definition movie screen, eight pool tables, an outdoor patio with a fire pit and a spacious sports bar that serves a variety of food and drinks round out the center’s amenities.
“This zone is the second one the Army has built,” Col. Tom Brittain, garrison commander, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, pointed out during his opening remarks.
“It is now also the biggest and the best,” he added to cheers.
Fort Riley, KS opened the first Warrior Zone last year.
Constructed by Stellar, a Florida-based construction firm that has consistently ranked as one of the nation’s top 25 companies in the design-build industry, the Warrior Zone took 18 months to build at a cost of $11 million.
“I’m very proud of being able to do my part for the military and these soldiers,” Adam Wyden, the Stellar architect who designed the structure, said.
“It has been very easy to satisfy our clients.”